Dale Yu: Review of Sagrada

 

Sagrada

  • Designers: Daryl Andrews and Adrian Adamescu
  • Publisher: Floodgate Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: ~45 minutes
  • Times played: 7, with review copy provided by Floodgate Games

If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, or ever seen a picture of Barcelona, you’ve surely seen the Sagrada Familia, the famous church designed by Antoni Gaudi.  Started in 1882, and still under construction, this not-quite-a-cathedral is world renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  In this game, players vie to create the most beautiful stained glass panel to be included in the great basilica.

Each player is given a board which represents a window frame with a 5×4 array of spaces.  In these spaces, players will place colored dice to create their stained glass panel.  The game is played over ten rounds, and in each of the rounds, players will draft two dice – so there will be just enough to fill in all the spaces by the end of the game.

To set up the game, each player gets his board, as well as two window pattern cards.  Each of these cards is double sided, and the player chooses which of the four sides that he wants to play.  This chosen side is inserted into the board and the other card is discarded.   Each side of the pattern cards has its difficulty marked on the bottom, between 3 and 6 units.  Each player will take a number of Favor tokens matching the difficulty of their chosen board from the supply.  Each player also get a private objective card which will give him a color to focus on during the game.

The round tracker is placed in the center of the table – the scoreboard is found on the reverse side, but it will not be needed until the end of the game.   There are two decks of cards – the Tool deck and the Public Objective deck – both are shuffled and three cards from each deck are placed face up on the table.  The Tool cards are special abilities that can be employed by spending your Favor tokens.  The Public Objective cards each provide a way to score points at the end of the game.  All the dice are placed in the bag, and this bag is given to the player chosen to go first.

Courtesy of BGG user kalchio

Each of the ten rounds follows the same pattern.  The Start player draws out 2 dice per player plus an additional die (i.e. 9 dice for a 4p game) and rolls them.  These dice form the Draft Pool for this round. Then, starting with the Start Player and going clockwise, each player chooses an available die from the Draft Pool and places it in their board.  If the player wishes, he can use one of the Tool cards found on the table by placing some of his Favor Tokens on the card.  If he is the very first player in the game to use that card, he needs one Favor Token; otherwise, he must place two Favor Tokens on the card to use it.  Once all players have chosen their die going clockwise, the order reverses and comes back counterclockwise with the Start Player getting the final choice in the round.

When you choose a die, it must be placed immediately on your board.  The very first die of the game must be placed on an edge space; every die after that must be at least diagonally adjacent to a previously placed die.   The pattern card chosen at the start of the game will give you some color or number restrictions on particular spaces.  Furthermore, dice may never be played to be orthogonally adjacent to the same color or same number.  Other than these few rules, you can place your dice wherever you like…

If you are unable to place a die or if you would rather choose not to place a die, you can pass on your turn.  When you pass, you do not choose a die from the pool – you skip the entire action of choosing a die.  You could still use a Tool card for the turn if you wanted to – but you are still restricted to only using one Tool card per round.

If, at any point, you are found to have an illegal board (i.e. two dice of the same color next to each other), you simply have to remove dice from your board until you are compliant with the rules.   You could use those spaces again with later die choices, but you will end up with empty spots at the end of the game for sure as you have had to discard some along the way.

Courtesy BGG user kalchio

At the end of the Round, the remaining die (or dice if someone passed) are then placed on the Round Track board on top of the number of the round which was just completed.  If the board is full, then you’ve finished the 10th round and the game is over.  Otherwise, the Start Player moves clockwise and that player takes the bag to draw dice to start the next round.

At the end of the game, you flip the Round board over to bring up the scoreboard. Each player has a marker to record their scores.  There are four different elements to scoring.

Private Objective card – at the start of the game, each player was dealt a private card; there are 5 of these, and they are identical except for the die color shown.  In scoring, each player scores 1 VP per pip of the matching color die on their board.

Public Objective cards – three of these cards were dealt face up to the table at the start of the game.  Each player calculates their score for each of the three scoring criteria.  Many of the cards score for dice found in a row or column of your board.  Note that you can only claim a score for completed rows (i.e. no empty holes in that row/column)

Favor Tokens – you score 1VP for each unused Favor Token

Empty Spaces – you LOSE 1VP for each empty space in your player board

The player with the most points wins the game.  Ties go to the player with the highest score from the Private Objective card.

courtesy BGG user kalchio

My thoughts on the game

Sagrada was one of the hits of the Gathering of Friends for me.  To be honest, I didn’t know that it was going to be out yet, but Daryl (the designer and a good friend of mine) was super excited to have the game there for people to play.  I played it early on in my weekend there, and then proceeded to play it almost every day in Niagara.  When I returned home, I was quite pleased to see a review copy waiting for me at home.  It has received regular play since its arrival.

The game appeals to me in part because it looks so dang good and in part because each game is a little logic puzzle that I get to work through as I play.  First, I’ll start with the looks.  Overall, the game is visually striking – the box has a brightly colored background and a huge rose window illustration on it.  The player boards also look like windows, and when they are filled with the bright translucent dice, it really is something to see.

The puzzle part also intrigues me.  The general rules of not placing same colors or numbers orthogonally adjacent always applies, but each game is a little different based on which pattern card you slide into the board.  The harder ones (i.e. 6 Favor Token sides) give you many more restrictions, but they also give you more Favor Tokens to use on the Tool cards.  Make sure that you look at your personal Objective card when choosing your pattern – you might as well try to get a pattern that forces you to use your desired color.  If nothing else, it might disguise your personal Objective color for a turn or two.

The rules are somewhat unclear on whether or not the Player setup is done before the board setup, so we have decided that you also get to look at the three Tool cards for the game before choosing your pattern board.  You should try to see whether the particular Tool cards give you enough flexibility in changing around less favorable dice for you when you’re choosing how difficult a board to take.  There isn’t that much difference in Tool ability in the game as you usually need 2 Favor Tokens to use a Tool card, so even if you take a difficult card, you’re likely only getting one more Tool action as compensation for choosing the more difficult pattern.

Trying to work out where to place dice into your board to give yourself the maximum flexibility in later rounds is key.  You don’t want to paint yourself into a spot where you only have one or two number/color combinations available to you for a legal placement.  You definitely need to make sure that you don’t box yourself in on the mandatory placement spaces on your pattern card.

From my first game at the Gathering of Friends

Once you’ve mastered that, you then can move to the next level which is trying to then choose dice that still help you but take away opportunity from your opponent.  If you know that your neighbor is collecting green dice, then you can try to take green over other colors when you are going before him.  Or, if one of the scoring rules is having different numbers in a row, you might try to deny him the number that he needs to complete a scoring row.  Sure, this defensive play should probably not supercede the need to draft the dice that you need for your own plans, but when choosing between otherwise equal choices, it’s good to try to figure out how to spoil the plans of your opponents.

The rules are super easy to teach, and you should honestly be able to get people going in about 5 minutes with the basics.  The rule cards on the Tool Cards and the different scoring scenarios change in each game, but they also only take a minute or two to explain – and since they’re face up on the table all game and never change, it’s easy enough to field questions or give clarifications throughout the game.

I have wondered a bit about the balancing in the game.  In a 3 or 4 player game, the players earlier in turn order will end up with more turns to go first.  Sure, this is supposed to be balanced out by also getting the last draw in that round – but in my mind there is still something to be said about getting the first choice from a full set of dice.  Of course, it still depends on the rolling – I have already had numerous turns where I went first, rolled crappy numbers and didn’t have a single die that was awesome for me (and not to mention how bad the remainders would be when I chose my second die) – so perhaps it all evens out in the end.  Thus far, though it seems like a theoretical issue, it hasn’t become a practical issue.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is beautiful, and the components have all held up nicely thus far.  I only have one small gripe, and that is the scoreboard and scoring tokens.  I kinda wish that the scoreboard were larger as my clumsy fingers often jostle around the markers when trying to move them.  In fact, left to my own devices, this is a game I now score on my phone app.  The other thing that is a minor peeve is the coloration of the player boards.  I’m sure that they might be modeled after real windows, but I really would have liked them to have been more solid in color.  Two of them have gradations in color, especially the “green” one – and this has caused some confusion in scoring when someone looks at the green board, sees the red side of it and their brain moves the red marker accidentally.

courtesy BGG user kalchio

I’ve loved this game since I started playing it, and my interest in it hasn’t died down yet.  For me, this is in the sweet spot of low playing time while still giving you interesting decisions to make on any given turn.  The time range might make one classify it as a super-filler, but I think this would not do justice to the game as there is more here than just a “filler”.  Were Floodgate Games a German company, this might stand a chance of award nomination for Spiel des Jahres – to me, it has the right combination of beauty, ease and elegance.

 

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): I should start by saying that nearly everyone seemed to be enjoying this at the Gathering – the fact that I didn’t care for it was the exception.  Drafting games often fall short for me, and this wasn’t an exception.  The dice are nice, but a game that should feel artistic instead felt very mechanical – and with too many disparate random elements for skill to seem to play a sufficient role in the outcome.  This latter concern may not be an issue, but it’s something I don’t care for in games.

 

Patrick Brennan: A beautiful looking game, and after our first play everyone was wondering how we could get hold of a copy. Each player has a unique 5×4 grid with varied dice requirements on it – this spot can only be yellow, this spot a 2, etc – but no die can be orthogonally adjacent to a die of the same colour or number. The aim is to get as many dice out as possible, and over the 10 rounds you claim 2 dice each turn from a draft, settlers-style. Each round your options diminish as to what dice can validly be placed on your board, and the game feels more and more like Take It Easy – how long can you keep your perfect board going. It’s got variable Kingdom Builder type scoring options for inter-game variety; a big plus. The only reason for not rating it higher as that I suspect your score can bust pretty easily on the final rounds, out of your control (again, much like Take It Easy). But it’s certainly enjoyable in the playing.

 

Mario Pawlowski: I’m 100% with Joe on this one. In addition in my games (which weren’t many I’ve to admit) the outcome of the game was decided by the initial distribution of secret colors and placement cards. One (or two) player managed to get a placement card with a lot of squares in their secret color. Felt like an automatic win since the score from the dice in your ‘secret’ color is exorbitantly higher than the rest of the bonus points you can score.

 

Alan How: I was one of the people who viewed the Kickstarter demos on line and was deterred, which was an odd experience. But after two plays at The Gathering I was convinced I had made a mistake and pre-ordered a copy. What changed my mind was the speed of play (it’s quick) and the variety (more tools) so I felt that it was a game my group would enjoy for a quick filler. It’s not the best game ever, but I liked it a lot. When I get my copy it might move to Love it.

 

Brian L (4 plays): I’ll get it right out of the way and say I love this game. The puzzle of where to put your dice, the flexibility of having tools, timing of when to use them, and the attractiveness of the whole package. And, despite the love, I have to concede the point that Mario makes as well; at least in part. I believe that the secret color scoring can be a bit overwhelming to the rest of the game, and is partly dependent simply on the luck to have useful high dice in your secret color show up at the right times. But, there are variants kicking about for using secret patterns instead if that level of luck bothers you, and for me, I think it is still provides some challenging dilemmas and is appropriate to the overall length of the game. Can’t wait to keep playing this one!

 

Dan Blum (3? plays): It is kind of mechanical and the luck element is certainly significant, but I like it anyway; I find there’s just enough control to keep things interesting..

 

Mitchell T  (3 plays): It’s a lovely game, neatly executed, provoking some interesting decisions. It’s an original concept. It’s a good puzzle and plays quickly. There’s a huge luck element, but heck, you’re rolling dice. We’ve been playing it as a light evening activity after thinking too much during the day. Great materials, too. I’ll describe Sagrada as charming.

 

Larry (2 plays):  This is a very nice game.  Planning ahead to make sure you can score well (and don’t give yourself an impossible placement) is enjoyable and the different Tool cards give you sufficient variety.  Ideally, there might have been more dice manipulation possibilities, but the Tools do provide the opportunity on every turn without making things overwhelming, so they probably got that balance right, particularly considering the target audience.  There is a reasonable amount of luck, but in most cases, I felt I had enough options to make things work out for me.  And the production is absolutely gorgeous.  Maybe not the ultimate dice game, but a very pleasant surprise and one that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers.

 

Mary P (1 play): The game looks really beautiful – so colorful! It also is fun to play – puzzling out where to put the dice. If the game is kept moving along, I like this as an interesting filler (i.e. a filler with more meat to it). For me, the luck is a bit high to make it to the “I love it” category. The secret goal really made a difference in scoring – it was too easy for some and more difficult for others depending on their initial board configuration. I agree with Dale about the window colors and scoring issues – but it’s not a dealbreaker. I’d definitely like to play more of this game.

 

Tery N (4 plays): I was not expecting to like this one and only sought it out because Dale told me to – and then I played it 3 times in the same day. It is a beautiful game, and I love the puzzle of trying to maximize the best placement of dice balanced with the luck of the roll. The favor tokens can help balance out any really bad rolls or poor placements. I’ll be picking up a copy as soon as it is available.

 

Craig V: A lot has already been covered by other Opinionated Gamers, so I’ll keep my comments brief… I really like Sagrada for a lot of reasons. The game can be taught quickly and play progresses at a good pace. The variable setup provides a fresh game play experience each time. The mechanisms work really well together and provide a balanced blend of strategy and luck. The puzzle aspect is engaging and enjoyable. The production quality is really good and the game is quite attractive overall. However, the player boards are almost too colorful since everything starts to blur together after looking at it too long. I really like to use Blueprints (another dice drafting and placement game) as a introductory hobby game for new or casual gamers and would now recommend Sagrada as a next step game since it has similar concepts with some additional complexity and depth. Overall, I definitely enjoyed Sagrada and would happily play it any time.

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y, Erik Arneson, Brian L, Tery N
  • I like it. John P, Patrick Brennan, Larry, Alan H., Dan Blum, Mitchell T, Craig V, Mary P
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me… Joe H., Mario P.

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Dale Yu: Review of Sagrada

  1. In games with fewer than four players, we generally remove dice from the bag (use 70 dice with 3 players, 50 with 2 players). An equal number of each color is removed: 4 of each with 3 players, 8 of each with 2 players.

    It’s a small thing, but it guarantees that the same number of dice will be drawn of each color. All dice are drawn in every game, even with fewer than 4.

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